HC Deb 28 May 1880 vol 252 cc634-5

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether there is any Treaty, Convention, Secret Article of a Treaty or of a Convention, Agreement, or Diplomatic Correspondence in the nature of an Agreement, that has been negotiated within the last five years, between this Country and any Foreign Power, which is not known to the House; whether, if so, he will lay the same upon the Table of the House; and, whether he will lay upon the Table of the House a Copy of the Agreement between this Country and Russia signed by the Marquis of Salisbury and Count Schouvaloff prior to the Berlin Conference?


Sir, with regard to the first part of the Question, I have to state that, for reasons which the House will readily understand, it is obviously impossible for Her Majesty's Government to give an answer which would completely satisfy the curiosity of the hon. Member. Secret Agreements may at times be necessary in order to meet the convenience of foreign Powers with whom we are in negotiation; but Her Majesty's Government think that, as a rule, any engagements of this nature which throw obligations on this country are to deprecated. It may, however, be satisfactory to the House to know that Her Majesty's Government are able to repeat and confirm the assurance given by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords on the 26th of July 1878, that— This country is under no engagements for the future except those on the Table of the House."—[3 Hansard, ccxlii. 354.] With regard to the specific document referred to in the latter part of the hon. Member's Question, I have reason to believe that its publication was objected to by the late Government owing to the refusal of a foreign Power to consent to the production of other confidential documents which were thought necessary to elucidate it. Her Majesty's Government do not think that in these circumstances any useful purpose would be served by pressing the matter further, the more so as the negotiations of which the document in question formed a part are now closed; and it has, therefore, ceased to have any practical importance.